Classic Universal Horror

I got into Universal Horror a few years back while on a mission to discover everything horror-related. My first viewing was the 3D version of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It astounded me how good the 3D was. It still bamboozles me how modern day cinema can’t get 3D right. All they have to do is watch a film like this to see how it’s done.

Anyway, I digress.

The first in each series (plus the Bride of Frankenstein) are classic features. But what these films share in all their black and white (remastered) glory is their aesthetic. From creature and costume design to the fantastic cinematography and set design; these films are a joy to the eye even if you find the storytelling and acting a little dated.

Making my way through this classic collection and onto their many sequels I see the difference great scriptwriting, directing and casting can make to the success of a great film and why the originals in each series stands the test of time.

On a side note let’s make a special mention to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. I can’t say much about this as I haven’t seen since it was released but it’s definitely on the rewatch pile. All I can remember is the stunning performances they all give. A wonderful tribute and celebration to these Universal Horror Classics.

The recent Tom Cruise reboot didn’t quite get it, but 2020’s The Invisible Man really made something of its own with the franchise. I, for one, would love to see these classics retold using the traditional methods of set design – capturing that haunting atmosphere in black and white film. But hey, that’s just me.

What about you? What do you love about these films? How would you like to see them rebooted? Drop a comment below. I’d love to hear what you think.

Gremlins

If you are reading this I’m sure you already know Gremlins is comedy horror at its best. From the lovable Mogwai, Gizmo, to the vicious and violent Stripe. And let’s not forget Brains and co. in the hilarious sequel that is Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

These films somehow magically blend comedy with all out gruesome horror through these masterful and wonderfully imagined puppet creations.

Gizmo is the pet we wish we all had, but why do we love his grotesque counterparts so much? What exactly is their appeal? Having watched these two films these last few nights I can only put it down to one thing. Because we see ourselves – our society – in these ghastly creatures. And that is wherein great comedy lies.

I saw Gremlins on pirate VHS when I was around eight years old. So it is a film I grew up with. And when the sequel came along I jumped at the chance to see it on the big screen.

Reported to be coming to HBO Max in 2021.

It has been announced that a ten-part animated TV series is due to hit the small screen next year on HBO max – HBO, who have produced some of the finest television we’ve seen these last few decades. Animation usually suggests a franchise will be aimed at a younger audience. Whether that animation is computer generated or hand drawn we’re yet to be treated to a sneak preview. But I’m keeping an open mind – just look at what Netflix did for The Dark Crystal – in my opinion the best TV series of last year. For me it was as good as Game of Thrones. Anyway, for now we’ll just have to enjoy what we have with these two great movies and the memories that go with them.

So which is your favourite? Are you a sucker for Gizmo like me? Or are you a fan of one of the dastardly, mischevious villains? Maybe you have a favourite scene? Drop a comment or gif below. I’d love to see who your favourites are and hear your memories of seeing the films.

And if you are interested to find out who initially created the Gremlins and how the first film came into my life – feel free to check out my (free) story: Nightmares & Scary Tales

Motivation – Thursday 21st May 2020

This week has been highly productive and great fun. But last night my inner-saboteur kicked in. Now it could’ve been something to do with having a cup of (decaf) coffee for the first time since Sunday (I’m sure it hasn’t helped) but it’s more likely my mind wants to fuck up my happiness.

I’ve been saying ‘make friends with your demons’ since my 20s. I’m sure it’s been said before but a google search doesn’t throw up anything that predates the late 90s so for now I’ve attributed the quote to anon.

‘Make friends with your demons.’ By this I guess I’m talking about awareness and seeing thoughts for what they are – just thoughts. Demons come in all shapes and sizes for all of us – that voice/those voices in our heads, memories, illusions and delusions, echoes of our past-selves that we can’t see anymore – old patterned behaviour, etc… which are all one thing and one thing only – thoughts. We can’t change the past. We can’t predict the future. But we can make choices for ourselves in the here and now.

Learning to observe thoughts and be “the observer of your thoughts” is a tricky concept but I’ve found with years of practice the anxiety and depression has severely lessoned. Don’t get me wrong, I still experience it but I’ve learned (and continue to learn) to manage it and not identify with it on a daily basis.

Through the therapy and training I’ve had in recent years I’ve come to discover that you can’t control your thoughts and feelings. BUT you can manage them. You can learn not to identify with them AND you can learn to let them go. There is no quick fix (as I naively believed a long time ago). It’s an ongoing process and takes a life’s work. And often it can be extremely challenging. But worth it in the long run.

So why am I writing this blog? Certainly not to teach, preach or brag. But because maybe sharing this story might just help in some small way.

In the past I’ve often let that inner-saboteur derail me and end up spending a few days on the sofa in front of the TV, thoughts swirling around in my head; or sleeping during the day. But not today. Today I want to overcome it and continue working on the projects that have brought me some joy.

Learning to look inwards and reflect on what’s going on in the mind is a powerful skill that can have such a positive impact on a person’s well-being. So today I’ll be re-acquainting myself with some old friends and when the time comes I’ll be waving them goodbye.

Drop a comment below for a free virtual hug. Have a great day!

Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector

This week I’ve been watching the Hannibal Lector films, starting with Hannibal Rising and Red Dragon.

I first saw The Silence of the Lambs when it came out on video (I was too young to see it at the cinema on release) and I was blown away. It was the first time I saw a thriller where you knew whodunnit. Where could they possibly go with the story if you know who the killer is? Right?

No spoilers here for those who haven’t seen it yet. But the twist is superb. And unexpected.

Jodie Foster’s and, of course, Anthony Hopkins’ iconic performance were well deserved of their Oscar wins in my opinion. Hopkins plays Lector with such quiet charm – luring you in with those deep blue eyes and softly spoken voice. He made the whole performance appear effortless. But hats off to the whole cast and crew too because I think it’s one of those films that are flawless.

The film got me onto the books. And the source material is highly gripping and thoroughly entertaining.

I’ve yet to read Hannibal Rising. And I may even give the TV series a shot – although it’s going to be hard to shake Anthony Hopkins out of the role of Hannibal the Cannibal.

What do you think of this series? Do you still hear the lambs, Clarice?

Drop a comment below. Would love to hear from you.

Motivation – Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. And the theme is – yes, you’ve guessed it – kindness.

Kindness comes in all shapes and sizes. It may be something we do or show towards others. And more often than not it can be something we forget to show to ourselves.

What does kindness mean to you? What acts have you witnessed or experienced in these last few months that have not only made you feel good about yourself, but have also made you proud to be human? Please share your comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.

Stephen King’s IT

Celebrating Stephen King’s IT this week. I first read the book back in 2017 – about eight months before the cinematic release of IT Chapter One. And what a ride it was.

I thoroughly enjoyed the short stories within the story – all those world building moments that weren’t focussed on the main characters but gave us a sense of how far and wide Pennywise’s power and presence had spread throughout Derry.

And of course, paying homage to both Tim Curry and Bill Skaarsgard’s interpretations of Pennywise. For me, Skaarsgard’s version is up there with all the horror icon greats.

What’s your favourite parts of IT? Feel free to drop a comment below.

Monday Motivation on a Tuesday 21st April 2020

This last week, this self-isolation business hit me. I found it very hard to focus on anything creative, and was in desperate need of a change of scenery. Yes, I go for a daily walk (practising social distancing, of course) and I even had a trip to the supermarket. While its a break in the day/week it’s hardly a change of scenery. I really miss going to different places, meeting new people, catching up with friends and family; and having new experiences – even if it’s just a trip to the cinema to see a film.

There are days when I can push myself and work through it. And there are days when I just ride the wave and let whatever thoughts and emotions I have run their course.

Today is a good day. The sun is shining. The skies are blue. Temperatures are forecast to be very warm here in the UK this week. I’m feeling quite positive and motivated.

The most important thing is to laugh. I’m fortunate enough to live with my partner and silliness and laughter is a part of our schtick. Which is why I’m going to leave you with a meme I’ve created myself. Something that reminds me not to take life too seriously. I hope it makes you smile. Have a great week.

Monday Motivation 6th April 2020

I first heard this quote on the series finale of Sex and the City – it’s the last thing Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) says at the end of the final episode. It’s one of those ones that has stayed with me since.

Without meaning to sound conceited, it really set me on a path to get to know myself better – a journey that began around 2011. And it’s a journey I’ll continue on until the day I die.

I used to live my live life thinking everything could be fixed – that everything around me had to change in order for me to be happy. That, and that achieving goals would fulfil me and give my life purpose.

As the years went by I found myself getting more miserable than I ever had in my entire life. I suffered anxiety and depression in my teens. At the time it was one of those subjects I didn’t know anything about; and it certainly wasn’t talked about back then. I continued to bottle it up throughout my 20s and 30s – seeking external sources as a distraction, believing I was living my life to the max. All the while I didn’t realise I wasn’t addressing the problem.

I’d read several books, watched many films, found new hobbies and interests and careers and even took part in several courses, including therapy. I can’t say all those methods have been perfect but I can say I’ve honestly learned something from each of them – some more than others. Some I’ve throughly enjoyed.

The time I spent in isolation while the rest of the world was getting on with their lives was difficult. I was depressed and anxious a lot of the time and it wasn’t an easy thing to cope with. But now I look back and can see how it was all part of the process – getting to know myself better and what made me tick. I had great days, I had bad. And whether good or bad, I learnt something new each time.

Something in my thinking was affecting the way I felt both emotionally and physically. Ultimately it came down to choices. Every thought presented me with a choice – and that included what thoughts I chose and how I identified with them.

Now I’m summarising here. Sharing a brief story of my experience. I don’t mean to downplay and oversimplify my experience or to preach or make bold claims. But now the world is on lockdown and we are all being advised to stay at home – I”m sure this is a shock to the system for hell of a lot of people. Some may not even realise that it is. But being at home all the time, whether you live alone or with others, is not always as wonderful as it sounds if you don’t have a routine or you aren’t used to managing your mental health.

I guess what I’m saying is today is a chance to start getting to know yourself a little better. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious – even just a little bit. It’s okay. You may even want to just ride the wave and let it pass – I still do. I tell myself: “Remember you are the one constant thing in your life – so you will never truly be alone if you get to know yourself. Take the time to find out who you are not and who you want to be.”

Just tiny, little steps – one day at a time.

Monday Motivation on Tuesday 31st March 2020

When I was a kid my parents used to entertain my sister and I by playing a lot of records, singing and dancing the afternoon and evenings away. This continued into my teenage years and often in my solitude when I got home from school I’d have a party-for-one. Blasting records and imagine I was giving my very own pop concert. An embarrassing confession, yes? No. The exercise and the freedom of imagination both singing and dancing gave me kept my head above water in those challenging years.

Now I’m not saying annoy your neighbours by playing loud music, but I know I’m going to spend my time at home, while I have it, doing things I love to do. The reason I’m writing and publishing this blog today is I had the impetus to continue writing a new story I started over the weekend. It gave me such a thrill to be doing it. And the after feeling of having created something left me feeling content and happy.

Looking after my mental health is as important as looking after my physical health – for me the two go hand-in-hand. And I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to be. Not every day is a sail in the water. On those days I watch a film or TV series or better still I read a book. And so what if I have a little siesta from time to time. I remind myself its okay to have those down moments and not to beat myself up over them.

Whether you live on your own or with friend or family, please look after yourselves while you are at home. And remember you are not alone.

Much love.

Mark Young